Mending Fences

CroyleWhat if you are wrong?

By John Croyle

If you have seen the movie The Bucket List, you remember that Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman were portraying two men that were checking off a “to-do” list of events, actions, and places they wanted to accomplish or visit before they literally “kicked the bucket.” If you recall, both of them had terminal diseases that were claiming their lives within a given time.

One of them (Jack Nicholson) had a daughter whom he had not talked to or seen in a very long time. His friend (Morgan Freeman) talked him into going to visit his estranged daughter. At the end of the movie, the father and daughter visited and got to clear things up.

Maybe there is someone in your life that you have checked off your list, thinking that they have done the same with you. I’ve got one question: What if you are wrong?

Think for a minute that maybe this relative or friend is just waiting for you to make the first move and make contact to repair, if at all possible, the relationship. Keep in mind that there are always two sides to every story, and the truth most times is somewhere in the middle waiting to be discovered.

And before we go any further, I just want to say that I agree there might be some relationships that need not be visited because of unique circumstances that are out of your control. But what about the ones you can work on to fix?

Every one of our children have been abandoned or betrayed by someone in their childhood. These people who were supposed to always be there in their lives chose not to fulfill that responsibility. Thus the reason Big Oak Ranch exists.

Most of our children who call Big Oak Ranch home are in an invisible emotional prison from which they cannot break free. They have been so deeply hurt and betrayed, they see no hope. Perhaps you can identify.

A staggering percentage of our children who come to live with us blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. Or they take the blame for their parents’ decision to drop them off at our front door. We have more than once heard a child tell his or her parent, “It’s OK, Mom. I understand.” Sometimes they even incorrectly take the blame for the severe abuse they have endured most of their lives. Many times, the child will look us in the eye and ask, “Do you want me?”

Even after 40+ years, this scenario still gets to me. The children feel like they did something wrong and assume that no one is going to want them. They assume the guilt of the fractured relationship and relieve the parent of all responsibility. They blame themselves for their parents’ choices to “quit” on them. The attitude of “Whew, I’m glad that’s over with!” that many parents reveal after they “drop off” their child with us is mind-boggling.

Now back to my question. What if you are wrong? What if you are the only one who can initiate a mended fence? How sad to see someone who is locked inside an emotional prison but they themselves actually hold the key to freedom, and they either don’t know it or, even worse, choose to ignore its existence.

If there was a chance you could free someone from this incarceration, would you do it? Now ask yourself, “Am I that someone?” Right now is the time you must be honest with yourself.

Obviously, everybody’s situation is different, and for some, there are no clear answers.  Many of us have repeatedly tried and reached out, only to be rebuffed or rejected again. For this type of situation, just remember that you can’t make someone leave his or her prison cell if they don’t choose to. If the other party doesn’t make the right choice, that’s their decision. You must choose wisely no matter what they do.

But this one thing I do know: Unless you are free, you cannot help to free someone else. I have used a phrase for longer than I can remember, and it goes like this: “You can’t carry someone somewhere you’ve never been, and you can’t lead them some place you’re not going.”

The best way to help other prisoners is to free yourself. Fix that broken relationship if it is within your power to do so. Even if the other party refuses to be free, you can move forward. At the very least, you can move on knowing you gave it your best shot.

I promise you, being truly free is great!

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